Ralph Nader’s Seventeen Traditions, published in 2007 is a short and slim 150 page novel. Nader was born and raised in Winsted, Connecticut and is an American political activist, author, lawyer, and lecturer. Nader reflects on the seventeen traditions that shaped his life as a child of Lebanese immigrants, growing up in a small town. The traditions reveal the importance of social values and the role families play as the transporter of those values which explains Nader’s purpose that, traditions offer guidance and inspiration for the parents, children and grandchildren of today. This novel not only reveals much about Nader’s own life and values, it also challenges the reader to self-reflection.
Nader states that learning how to listen was a core, if subtle, part of our early education. His mother always told her children to listen more than they speak and to think before they speak in order to learn. For example, “I learned that good listening meant asking leading questions, and inserting verbal nudges that would tease out what you were really interested in learning. The early training helped me develop my interviewing skills, which helped me throughout my career”. ( Nader, 37) Through my own life experiences, I believe listening is a very important skill that is beneficial to both work and everyday life. As a university student, being a good listener takes skill and lots of practise. It took me two years to learn how to properly listen to the professors and learn the style of fast pace teaching.
Listening will allow you to understand what is required of you and will allow you to ask the proper questions. As a co-op student, I have extensive training with interviews. Listening is an essential skill an interviewee must have in order to engage in a successful job interview. It shows the interviewer that you are interested in the job and are able to ask questions that are appropriate to the specific role. I believe Nader’s parents were great role models for their children and I agree with the expression she continually told them: The more you talk, the less you’ll have to say, and the more you listen, the more sensible will be what you say.” Using tradition to teach connects parents and children and provides models for behaviour, and has the added benefit of encouraging critical thought.
I strongly believe that eating together as a family is more important today than in the past because of the competing distractions from technology, more activities outside the home and the variety of convenient fast food restaurants. As Nader states, “We’re drowning in photographs and videos, capturing every mundane moment of our birthdays, holidays and vacations. Yet these can be no more than pleasant distractions, only scratching the surface of our real relationships.” Sharing stories around the dinner table can have a more powerful and lasting impact that digital technology. In today’s society children are learning about the world from many different sources; therefore, the only opportunity to communicate as a family is at the dinner table. Children need a shared, safe place to discuss ideas within the understanding company of a family and parents need time to connect with their kids.
I live in a busy household with 3 siblings who all play sports and have part time jobs aside from getting an education. Unfortunately, we do not eat dinner together every night due to our busy lifestyles, but we all try to sit down together every Sunday night. This tradition has existed for many years and is something that I look forward to each week. It reminds me about the importance of family. After a busy week our meal was a chance to gather around the table and reconnect with each other. This pleasant time seemed like a reward for the week’s hard work. Conversation is spontaneous and unpredictable and discussion between bites is always fun, and often interspersed with periods of laughter.
Favouritism of children is a problem that exists in many households and can lead to horrible consequences such as withdrawal, sadness and shattered self confidence. My parents both grew up in large families with 5 siblings each and had to learn from a young age about the importance of treating every child equally. My mother has always felt that she was treated unfairly by her parents growing up and has suffered bitter resentment towards her mother. Her upbringing has made her a better parent to us and she has always treated us fairly unless one of my siblings was sick and needed attention. Just like Ralph’s mom states, “Children understand that, in any given circumstance, their parents might need to show one of their siblings special treatment.” My parents never compared us against one another and split their time equally at our sporting events. I strongly believe that the reason we developed such strong relationships is because we were all given an equal opportunity and fair chance. We do not resent or envy each other and we would go to great lengths in order to help each other succeed.
In today’s society I believe that children are not expected to work at an early age and household chores are being replaced by hired cleaners. People are becoming lazier and given less responsibility. In my family , all my siblings were expected to help out around the house but roles were not specified by gender like in Nader’s family. My parents always stressed the importance of working hard and made us all join the workforce by the age of 15. I am very thankful that I was forced to work at a young age because I have gained experience that has helped me grow and mature into a responsible 21 year old. Parents are not doing their children any favours by allowing them to stay home for as long as possible. Taking on the responsibilities that come with work will teach children many lessons that can help them learn to become more independent and responsible.
Nader has a deep appreciation and affection for the way his parents handled his upbringing and is happy to call them a leading example to be followed. The tradition of listening taught by his parents is an important communication skill that is essential in the workplace. Ralph states that learning to listen from an early age has helped him throughout his carer and his patience in the long, often contentious, question-and-answer periods following his lectures and speeches.